No police coercion over murder confession - IPCA

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

Police did not coerce a woman to confess to the murder of a Christchurch man killed with a shotgun at close range in 1999, an independent watchdog has ruled.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) today released its report examining police conduct relating to the convictions of Joyce Conwell for the attempted murder of Doreen Middlemiss in Dunedin in June 1998, and the murder of Alec Rodgers in Christchurch in September 1999.

In 2011 Joyce Conwell's sister, Denise Lane, made a complaint to the then Ombudsman David McGee of possible misconduct by police officers in relation to Conwell's convictions.

Her complaint was that Conwell had confessed to the offences as a result of police coercion.

However IPCA chairman Judge Sir David Carruthers said the authority found that although some aspects of the police investigation were undesirable, there was no evidence that Conwell's confession was coerced.

"In investigating this case it was evident that the underlying concern of Ms Lane, the complainant, was whether Ms Conwell was properly convicted of the attempted murder of Doreen Middlemiss and murder of Alec Rodger.

"However, the safety of those convictions and whether they should be revisited is not within the statutory remit of the authority. We have a narrower function which is to determine whether there was any police misconduct or any failure of police practice, policy or procedure.

"In relation to the issues considered as part of the authority's investigation, the authority found that the police failure to undertake further inquiries to corroborate Ms Conwell's confession to her involvement with the murder of Mr Rodgers, before she pleaded guilty to that murder, was undesirable.

"The authority also found that after her first court appearance, Ms Conwell should not have been escorted from Dunedin to Christchurch Women's Prison by a Detective Senior Sergeant unaccompanied," Sir David said.

"In all other respects the authority found that the police acted appropriately."

- APNZ

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